Ex-Meta security staffer accuses Greece of spying on her phone
Meta’s former security policy manager, who split her time between the US and Greece, is reportedly suing the Hellenic national intelligence service for hacking her phone.
After apparently wiretapping her mobile, the Greek spy agency allegedly deployed Predator surveillance software on Artemis Seaford’s device while she was working on cybersecurity policy at Meta, a role in which she corresponded with Greek and other European officials, according to The New York Times.
Predator spyware is illegal in Greece, and a government spokesperson denied the accusations.
“The Greek authorities and security services have at no time acquired or used the Predator surveillance software. To suggest otherwise is wrong,” Giannis Oikonomou, the government spokesman, said. “The alleged use of this software by nongovernmental parties is under ongoing judicial investigation.”
Seaford isn’t the first or only person to suggest that the Greek government uses spyware — and specifically Predator — to surveil politicians and journalists.
Greece’s cyber-spying problem keeps growing
The country’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has come under fire for allegedly orchestrating mass wiretapping and spying directed at members of his own government, opposition politicians, and journalists.
Additionally, a Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG), has said that Cytrox, which developed Predator, sold zero-day exploits to government-backed snoops – some in Greece – who used them to deploy the firm’s spyware in at least three campaigns in 2021.
2021 is when Seaford’s mobile phone was reportedly infected.
Seaford has filed a lawsuit in Athens against anyone behind the hack in the hopes of forcing an investigation into the spyware’s usage.
We won’t mention the irony of a Meta employee filing a lawsuit alleging cyber snooping when Meta has faced its own legal battles for secretly (and illegally) tracking iPhone users and “surveillance advertising,” among other not-so-trustworthy endeavors.
Oops, we just did.
Choose your infection: Covid? Or Predator?
The way the hack happened is especially devious: Seaford booked an appointment for a COVID-19 booster shot through the Greek government’s vaccination platform, received an automated SMS with appointment details, then received another SMS asking her to confirm her appointment by clicking a link.
That last link was allegedly a malicious URL that, after Seaford clicked it, led to her device being infected with Predator. “The details for the vaccination appointment in the infected text message were correct, indicating that someone had reviewed the authentic earlier confirmation and drafted the infected message accordingly,” according to the Times report.
According to the paper, Seaford worked at Meta between 2020 and 2022, abd saw her name on a leaked list of spyware targets in the Greek news media last November and took her phone for analysis at Citizen Lab.
Citizen Lab determined her phone had been infected by Predator spyware in September 2021 for at least two months. “This does not preclude the possibility of other infections, or of an infection period extending beyond November 16 2021,” the forensic report by Citizen Lab said.
Additionally, the Times reported two people “with direct knowledge of the case” told its reporters that Seaford’s phone had been wiretapped by the Greek spy agency from August 2021 well into 2022.
Seaford is the fourth known person, and the first American citizen, to file a lawsuit in Greece over the use of the snooping software. The other three include investigative reporter Thanasis Koukakis and two opposition politicians.
Meanwhile, the European Union has launched its own investigation into spyware including Predator and the notorious Pegasus malware. Lawmakers in the EU and US have also cracked down on commercial surveillance software and the software firms that sell it. ®
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